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Napoleon's Privates: 2,500 Years of History Unzipped Hardcover – July 1, 2008


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Napoleon's Privates: 2,500 Years of History Unzipped + The Sinner's Grand Tour: A Journey Through the Historical Underbelly of Europe + The Naked Olympics: The True Story of the Ancient Games
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: It Books; 1 edition (July 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061257281
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061257285
  • Product Dimensions: 0.9 x 6.5 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #653,897 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“Tony Perrottet’s sinfully entertaining survey of perversion.” (Salon.com)

“It’s refreshing to find such an entertaining writer whose history is also meticulously researched. Perrottet’s take on the past is erudite, original and witty -- even, frequently, hilarious.” (Paul Cartledge, Professor of Classics, Cambridge University)

“A terrifically funny writer; this history-cum-travelogue is as enjoyable as it is informative and twice as quirky.” (Boston Globe on Pagan Holiday)

“An appealing...mix of the zany and the arcane.” (New York Times on Pagan Holiday)

“A whimsical trek through classical history, famous sites and arcane trivia.” (Washington Post on Pagan Holiday)

“Required reading...a charming popular history of ancient Roman sight-seeing.” (Forbes on Pagan Holiday)

“A fascinating and often humorous look at a world long gone and the tourist culture that has grown up around it. Perrottet’s writing sparkles with descriptions of modern and ancient misadventures.” (Library Journal on Pagan Holiday)

“Brimming with humor, adventure, anecdotal tidbits, and fascinating historical information.” (Booklist on Pagan Holiday)

“Combining a wealth of vivid details with a knack for narrative pacing and subtle humor, Perrottet (Pagan Holiday) renders a striking portrayal of the Greek Olympics and their role in the ancient world…It’s an entertaining, edifying account that puts a human face on one of humanity’s most remarkable spectacles.” (Publishers Weekly on The Naked Olympics)

“This lively account of the classical Olympics portrays them as “the Woodstock of antiquity,” and claims that the Games, while taken seriously, were also where Greeks gathered for a five-day debauch.” (The New Yorker on The Naked Olympics)

“The Naked Olympics presents the Greeks in all their glory, brutality, and vulgarity. It is a fascinating picture and popular history at its best.” (Norman Cantor, Professor Emeritus, New York University, and author of Antiquity: The Civilization of the Ancient World)

“Brimming with humor, adventure, anecdotal tidbits, and fascinating historical information, this delightful travelogue offers a unique twist on some classic journeys.” (Booklist on Pagan Holiday)

About the Author

A long-term denizen of Manhattan, Tony Perrottet is the author of Pagan Holiday: On the Trail of Ancient Roman Tourists and The Naked Olympics: The True Story of the Ancient Greek Games. His irreverent yet thoroughly researched approach to history has made him a regular contributor to Smithsonian Magazine, Condé Nast Traveler, Outside, The Believer, National Geographic Adventure, and the New York Times, with frequent appearances on NPR radio and the History Channel, where he has discussed everything from the Crusades to the birth of disco.


More About the Author

The need for perpetual motion has always been Tony Perrottet's most obvious personality disorder. While studying history at Sydney University, the Australian-born Perrottet regularly disappeared hitch-hiking through the Outback, sailing the coast of Sumatra or traveling through rural India (enjoying a brief and inglorious career as a film extra in Rajasthan). After graduation, he moved to South America to work as a "roving correspondent," where he covered the Shining Path war in Peru, drug running in Colombia and several military rebellions in Argentina. A brief visit to Manhattan fifteen years ago convinced him that New York was the ideal place for a rootless wanderer to be based. From his current home in the East Village of Manhattan, he has continued to commute to Iceland, Tierra del Fuego, Wyoming, Tasmania and Zanzibar, while contributing to international publications including the New York Times, Smithsonian Magazine, Conde Nast Traveler, Slate, Esquire, Outside and the London Sunday Times.

Perrottet is the author of five books - a collection of travel stories, Off the Deep End: Travels in Forgotten Frontiers (1997); Pagan Holiday: On the Trail of Ancient Roman Tourists (2002); The Naked Olympics: The True Story of the Greek Games (2004); Napoleon's Privates: 2500 Years of History Unzipped (2008); and The Sinner's Grand Tour: A Journey Through the Historical Underbelly of Europe (2011, Broadway Books). His travel stories have been widely anthologized and have been selected four times for the Best American Travel Writing series. He is also a regular television guest on the History Channel, where he has spoken about everything from the Crusades to the birth of disco.

Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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I have read the book and I would give it to a 16 yr. old to read.
dtrossga
I recommend this read to anyone looking for a great conversational book, a person with a good sense of humor and an interest in historical figures.
Lori D. Hogan
As one might guess, the prurient stories are the focus of the book; and since they had the author's full attention, they really are very funny.
Arthur H. Roach

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By tredog1 on July 14, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Great compilation of interesting tid bits, although some are more appealing than others. As a History major I enjoyed the historical accuracy vs. urban legend aspect of the essays. Most of them did make for great conversation with others and it was fun to throw around some facts about the more absurd, perverse or taboo pieces of world history.

Also I must note that I appreciate that the essays involving homosexual history have no tinge of judgment or repugnance hidden in them (as some other similar collections have). So thank you for that Perrottet.

Good use of references as well, you can tell the author did his research. And it prompted me to pick up some more reading material so I may further delve into some of the topics that Perrottet just touched upon briefly.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By C. Thilmany TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 15, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This book contains over sixty chapters devoted to historical sort of "urban legend" tales involving scandals, sex, body parts or other juicy tidbits that would get most people's attention if you heard it being discussed. Much of it is about famous people, but we also get topics devoted to ideas surrounding sex, such as how it was believed that masturbation caused a long list of physical ailments.

Some of the stories involve Napoleon, Cleopatra, Casanova, popes, Hitler, JFK and other earlier presidents, the practice of castrating young boys in the hopes they'd be famous singers, the birth of the stag movie, syphilis, etc, etc.

In the introduction the author claims to not want to trivialize history, but to bring it to full life. We get the general rumor as well as some actual facts that either debunk or support the tale with sources and further reading suggestions on the subject provided for each chapter, all told in a light-hearted, humorous manner. Most chapters are 2-4 pages in length, so you don't get buried in any one subject. Too bad school history books aren't told in this manner.

I don't think the book is intended to be read cover-to-cover in one sitting, but I found myself getting through over half the book before I started jumping around to look at specific topics I hadn't reached yet. I just know that some of what I've read will be brought up in future conversations.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Arthur H. Roach on August 31, 2008
Format: Hardcover
As one might guess, the prurient stories are the focus of the book; and since they had the author's full attention, they really are very funny. I kept the book by my bed, which was perfect because of the very short articles -- two or three read and I was in slumber land, probably with a small smile.
A couple things an editor should have caught: while his discussion on the accuracy and relevance of the permanent virginity of the Blessed Virgin Mary is right-on-target, he makes the common error of identifying The Immaculate Conception as the moment when Mary conceived Jesus. Wrong. The Immaculate Conception, in Catholic teaching, is the moment when Mary herself was conceived in her mother's womb, and "enjoyed in advance" the merits of the cross. When Gabriel appeared to Mary and she conceived Jesus is The Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. (Hey -- sorry if that's Too Much Information.)
On the history of masturbation, he didn't get the sin of Onan exactly right. At the time, Jewish law called for a brother to impregnate his brother's widow. Onan withdrew and failed to honor his responsibility.
Nit-picking aside, the book is a lot of fun; but let me suggest you find it in a library or borrow it from a friend. You'll finish reading it in a few days.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By G. Poirier on August 20, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This book contains a wealth of historical gems. In over fifty chapters, the author presents a series of historical snippets most of which have, for obvious reasons, been omitted from standard history texts. Although most of the topics are sex-oriented in some way, not all of them are in that category; some involve gastronomy (in various forms), odd habits, celebrity quirks, etc. The writing style is refreshing to say the least; that is, it is irreverent, tongue-in-cheek, accessible, engaging, witty, down-to-earth and in many cases absolutely hilarious. The references that are indicated at the end of each chapter, the authorities that were consulted, as named in the acknowledgments, as well as the author's own expertise give the reader confidence as to the accuracy of the stories that are presented. This is a book that can be thoroughly enjoyed by absolutely anyone. History has never been so much fun to read.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By BookMan VINE VOICE on August 14, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This book is, shall we say, filled with all kinds a tidbits that hit below the belt. Shockingly funny, often extremely irreverent, Napoleon's Privates certainly won't leave anyone hanging (gasp)! While this book certainly won't find its way into history classes (at least I would hope not), it takes a fresh (and very bare) look at historical figures and practices ranging from urine taxes to whether or not Hitler was dealing with a full set (of gonads, that is).

Certainly, Napoleon's Privates is a quick read that would make for great material to take to the beach or to the "reading room."
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By troilo_47 on May 2, 2010
Format: Hardcover
This is a light, quick, amusing read. I know that the author didn't intend this to be a scholarly work- he even states in the introduction that he intends for the book to be a modern day "Secret Cabinet" to be perused at random- but there were several anecdotes that I found quite interesting and would loved to have seen explored further. In fact, I think the best thing about this book is the way he lists a bibliography after each story, giving the reader the opportunity for further reading. As a history buff, I really appreciated that.

This book would make great summer reading, and it did make me curious to read the author's other books.
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